India, You Own Me

The moment I breathed in muggy air, felt my skin prickle from the heat as I exited Mumbai’s International terminal, was an awakening.  I knew this was going to be an unforgettable experience.

Friends or newly formed acquaintances ask me, how was India?

My voice dies.  Lips unable to speak.  A simple set of words eludes me.

She can’t be summed up in one sentence.  Ever.

Cities heave under the weight of human survival, prosperity and ingenuity.  The buildings, some gleaming, newly poured, while others are crumbling and abandoned.  Or the pockmarked pavement where motorbikes, scooters and Tata cars jockey for position.  The onset of car culture and the American mentality that is seeping in seems to be winning.  But the power of a 5,500-year-old culture doesn’t buckle so easily.

The cities may be considered the heart, epicenter of India, but it’s the villages that are the arteries, the veins pumping life’s blood into her, carving paths to multiple doorways of religion and culture.

Imagine this: thatch huts with a sow tied to a wooded fence stand in plain sight alongside a steel waste management bin that’s dutifully emptied by screeching, rumbling trucks that are fueled by gas, not magic dust.  It’s this marriage of tradition and modern that leads a wanderer to cover her eyes in wake of a collision, yet it never comes.  What you receive is ordered chaos – coexistence between the ancient and progress.

The village injects her desires into the pocket of every metropolis.

There’s no distinction between hick land and the cosmopolitan.  It all meshes together.  Within that what endures is family. Every distant relative is cousin, brother or sister.  A profound, staggering stronghold of community.  Then, the holy.  The spiritual tangling of India spreads to

By |May 28th, 2011 |Categories: India |44 Comments
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Same Destination; Different Experience

walk along

Allan and I had just met four hours ago and he irritated me.

Not because he wasn’t pleasant.  He was male.

I first noticed it when we walked back to his hotel.  The old section of Udaipur has a main street that bursts with humans, rickshaws, cars and motorbikes constructed of various nuts, bolts or chromosomes.  The street heaves, contracting endlessly to fit all these objects.

Offshoots from the main street become snaking one-way streets.  It was down one of these streets when Allan was assaulted.  With kindness.

A male shop worker slapped him affectionately on the back.  Smiling broadly as he recounted how Allan bought them tea at a restaurant the other day.

Another hugged him almost tenderly, telling me that Allan spent an hour in his shop talking like old friends.

A few would idle in front of their stores, yelling a “hello” to him. The type of greeting bursting with camaraderie.

You would think the Maharaja himself was resurrected and here he was in the flesh.

What annoyed me was not Allan’s popularity, but his experiences.

How effortlessly he forged buddy connections in a short amount of time.

Most of my experiences were great, yet could not be rated as warm and fuzzy.  Always the curious questions; sometimes a joke or two.  When I was in a restaurant, usually one male acted as the spokesperson, while the rest hungrily gawked.

I mused about my latest one.  A self-proclaimed neighbor who lived next to my guesthouse offered to drive me back one night.  I had just arrived and was absolutely lost on how to get back, though had a vague idea.  Vague ideas were not going

Horse Whispering in Rajasthan

A Little Historical Reference

The history of the horse in Rajasthan spans hundreds of years.  At one time in the land of kings, horses were used for pleasure trips and thunderous warfare.

Rajasthan society was infused with a social caste system.  This included horses.  The Marwari breed reached the highest esteem, thus only Rajputs were privileged to ride these stunning creatures in battle.

As I poked around places like Jaipur or Udaipur, Chetak by far is the most famous horse. He belonged to Pratap Singh, Hindu ruler of Mewar.  Singh is a revered hero of Rajasthan, prominently featured in the Battle of Haldighati in 1576, the power struggle between the Mughal-Mewar kingdoms.

Several Rajput generals had joined under Mughal Emporer Akbar, but Pratap refused, selfishly protecting his pride and honor.  You can imagine the fall-out.  During the Battle of Haldighati, as Pratap perched on the regal Chetak, he attacked Man Singh on his elephant, a prince and special envoy to Mughal Emperor Akbar.  In the heat of swords clashing and guttural cries of the battle knell, Chetak suffered severe injuries and died valiantly in battle.  His master cried like a baby and entered a page of history.

Pratap Singh and Chetak monument - Udaipur

That’s as much as I know.  When I noticed posters for horse safaris at my guesthouse, it was tantalizing, too hard to resist.

Did I mention I’ve never ridden a horse before?  Ever. I’m the anti-anti Alberta girl.  While farming debutantes were thrust into the limelight of cowtown, I buried myself in my room, writing morose poetry.

The Tour

I was picked up at my hotel and

By |May 10th, 2011 |Categories: Adventure, Udaipur |14 Comments

When You Bleed, You Think About Life

Hospital bed

Facing Truths

“How long has this been going on?”

I couldn’t see the doctor from my position, on my back, as light pierced my eyes.  The only visible shape was the outline of her body, a white aura bleeding around her face.  Just a disembodied voice tinged with disapproval.

“Six days.”

I lied.  Maybe I just didn’t want to face the truth myself.  It had really been seven days of spotting on and off.

I knew it was stupid to leave the problem so long.  You prolong knowing. I drank too much in my early thirties, smoked a heap of cigarettes.  My age is a factor.  Even my sexual choices cast a shadow.

Somewhere in the recesses of my memories, I kept wondering if this was happening well before my last intimate encounter, and I chose to ignore it.

I had just got in from Udaipur that morning, threw my bags at Mystique Moments, and rushed out again for this dreaded appointment.

The rickshaw driver had no idea where Fortis La Femme was; I was late, then barreled in sweating and exhausted.

With barely time to breathe in the stifling 40-degree weather, she uttered something that woke me from any travel anxiety.

“We need to do some tests, probably an ultrasound to see what might be going on.”

I gulped.

Everything Flashes

As she prepared me for the ultrasound, instructing me to lie down, placing a towel across my stomach, everything rushed at me.

Staph definitely rattled me.  Yet, that can be annihilated with strong antibiotics.

This could be much worse.  I knew it, could not ask her out loud.

This could be the big C.

The specter

I’m in Love… With My Guesthouse

I didn’t know what to expect when the rickshaw dropped me off in the old town of Udaipur.  Reviews said Mewargarh Palace is decent and boast fair and accommodating owners.  See, after so many couches, Murphy Beds, and unwashed sheets I’ve become cynical.

As though nothing could possibly please me now.  I stood outside the dull brown latched door, pressed the doorbell, and walked in bracing myself.

I dropped my backpacks and lightening struck. Love. At first sight. Does that even happen anymore?  My insides told me –  yes! Amore.

The charming courtyard:

Intricate window design:

My enchanting little room.  He only charged me 400 RS for a 500 RS room!

Biggest bathroom I’ve had in India:

Cannot get over the adorable sunflower pillow:

Window and pale blue wooden shutters overlooking the courtyard:

Rooftop restaurant:

View from roof:

Chill out area:

My breakfast.  Apple pancakes with fruit and sweet chai masala

By |April 27th, 2011 |Categories: Travel Tips, Udaipur |36 Comments

Rajasthan – Jewel of India

When the train lurches, propelling itself from the platform in Delhi, leaving behind the dense, smoggy air and the concrete monoliths that are brimming with families, that familiar tug of motion bubbles.  A nugget of knowledge that you are onwards somewhere new, saddling uncharted waters.

The volume of traffic and decibels of honking is a faraway din to your ears, as is the lonely, howling dogs. All is drowned out by the pre-recorded train boardings warbling from the loudspeakers at the station. Your berth and seat number afford some insulation as sprawling Delhi begins to fade.

Maybe it’s the twinkle of morning or the dregs of night.  Indian trains always seem the same whatever departure time, a crawling snake the shade of what a depressed sky might look like, a pale blue tinged with grey.  The snake moves faster, changing the landscape from city to country.

You take out the crumpled ticket in your pocket and stare at it.  Jaipur.  Sort of a mystery, yet to be unfolded.

You might snooze for a spate; tinkle around with a novel you’re reading, until finally the mystery unravels.

The window beckons.

Pink jewel mountainous ranges kissing the indigo sky.  Acres of wheat fields where bushels wait to be claimed.  Dust covered, anorexic trees. Camels as work animals or show pieces for foreigners.

The train window reflects light and

By |April 25th, 2011 |Categories: Culture, Rajasthan |21 Comments